Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to set aside a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff on one of her due process claims. Plaintiff filed suit against the District after she was terminated based on accusations that she had improperly influenced the bidding process for the District's healthcare contracts. Plaintiff alleged that the District violated her Fifth Amendment due-process rights by leaking these accusations to the press and denying her an opportunity to refute them. The court held that the District failed to preserve its speech argument and such failure precluded appellate review where the District failed to identify any exceptional circumstances. The court also held that precedent did not mandate a rigid minimum-duration rule governing how long a former government employee must be unemployed before she can claim that the government's actions had the broad effect of largely precluding her from pursuing her chosen career. Therefore, the court rejected the District's argument that two years of unemployment is never sufficient to establish that plaintiff has been deprived of her liberty interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of the District's motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Campbell v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether plaintiff's employment discrimination claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., were subject to ordinary principles of res judicata, even though at the time she filed her earlier suit she had not yet received a notice of her right to sue for those claims. The DC Circuit joined its sister circuits and held that res judicata applies to such Title VII claims, at least in the absence of a particularized showing that prosecuting or otherwise preserving the claims in the initial litigation was infeasible. In this case, including plaintiff's Title VII claims in her initial litigation was entirely feasible. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Ashbourne v. Hansberry" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to police officers in an action alleging that they violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause and using excessive force to subdue him. The court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim of an unlawful arrest because the officers could have reasonably believed plaintiff was intoxicated and posed a danger to himself or others. Therefore, the officers had probable cause to arrest plaintiff. The court also held that plaintiff's contention that one of the officers intended to slam plaintiff's head into the bar window when executing a takedown was not supported by the record and the takedown maneuver used by the officer did not violate clearly established law. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. View "Hedgpeth v. Rahim" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violation of plaintiff's rights to freedom of speech and freedom of unreasonable seizures. In this case, plaintiff was escorted by officers out of an event at George Washington University where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was delivering a speech. Plaintiff stood during the speech, facing the audience and blocking the view of audience members, wearing a shirt proclaiming "Veterans for Peace." He did not respond or react to officers' repeated requests to come with them. The court held that the officers had probable cause to arrest plaintiff because they had issued a sufficient demand for plaintiff to leave and he refused their demand. The court also held that the use of force was not so excessive that no reasonable officer could have believed in the lawfulness of his action. View "McGovern v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violation of plaintiff's rights to freedom of speech and freedom of unreasonable seizures. In this case, plaintiff was escorted by officers out of an event at George Washington University where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was delivering a speech. Plaintiff stood during the speech, facing the audience and blocking the view of audience members, wearing a shirt proclaiming "Veterans for Peace." He did not respond or react to officers' repeated requests to come with them. The court held that the officers had probable cause to arrest plaintiff because they had issued a sufficient demand for plaintiff to leave and he refused their demand. The court also held that the use of force was not so excessive that no reasonable officer could have believed in the lawfulness of his action. View "McGovern v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in an action alleging that his supervisors at the EPA discriminated against him because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. The court held that there was no excuse for plaintiff's noncompliance with an EEOC regulation requiring a federal employee to contact a counselor within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory. In regard to plaintiff's timely claims of age discrimination, the court held that he failed to establish that he suffered an adverse employment action where each of his claims did not cause objectively tangible harm of the sort that would render them adverse employment actions. In regard to the retaliation claims, the court held that plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the reassignment of his agents and his protected activities. View "Drielak v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Metropolitan Police Officer Leo and three other officers, part of the Gun Recovery Unit, encountered Briscoe in an apartment parking lot. When an officer asked Briscoe if he was carrying a gun, Briscoe fled. Two officers pursued Briscoe on foot, while Leo and another pursued in a police vehicle. Leo testified that he saw Briscoe’s right hand moving toward his waistband, causing Leo to fear that he was reaching for a gun. Briscoe repeatedly looked over his shoulder, toward the officers, and turned toward the police vehicle, pointing what appeared to Leo to be a gun. Leo fired two shots, striking Briscoe in the back. Briscoe was transported to the hospital where he died as a result of the wounds. A police search of the scene of the shooting recovered no actual firearm but produced a broken BB gun, which closely resembled a Walther PPK pistol. No fingerprints were found on the weapon. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court dismissed some claims. Some counts went to trial, resulting in a verdict for the defense. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, upholding the exclusion of Briscoe’s cell phone bill from evidence and the denial of sanctions for the prosecution’s late disclosure of a fingerprint report and of the fact that the BB gun had been swabbed for DNA. View "Lane v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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In Fourstar v. Garden City Grp., Inc., 875 F.3d 1147 (D.C. Cir. 2017), the district court decided that under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a district court's decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims does not count as a strike against a prisoner seeking in forma pauperis (IFP) privileges in later litigation. In light of Fourstar, the court held that it was not a strike under the PLRA when a district court in effect, though not in its exact terms, declines to hear state law claims in situations where 28 U.S.C. 1367 would authorize it to resolve. Accordingly, the court granted plaintiff's petition to proceed IFP in this court and remanded with instructions for the district court to do the same. View "Ladeairous v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of state in an action alleging disclosures of plaintiff's personal identifying information in violation of the Privacy Act. The court held that plaintiff's personal identifying information was released pursuant to a valid routine-use notice. In this case, the release of the information was compatible with the purpose for which the information was collected. The court explained that the purpose for collecting plaintiff's identifying information – to investigate whether to designate him for economic sanctions and to implement the sanctions – was precisely aligned with the purpose of disclosure – to implement the sanctions by publishing the information to the public. View "Chichakli v. Tillerson" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of state in an action alleging disclosures of plaintiff's personal identifying information in violation of the Privacy Act. The court held that plaintiff's personal identifying information was released pursuant to a valid routine-use notice. In this case, the release of the information was compatible with the purpose for which the information was collected. The court explained that the purpose for collecting plaintiff's identifying information – to investigate whether to designate him for economic sanctions and to implement the sanctions – was precisely aligned with the purpose of disclosure – to implement the sanctions by publishing the information to the public. View "Chichakli v. Tillerson" on Justia Law